You’ve seen the green school bus driving through Portland’s Old Port. I know you have. You’ve watched people board this bus and thought, “What is that? What kind of magical place are those people going to?” And if you’re a local, you’ve probably let the thought pass like a cumulus cloud floating through a summer’s sky as you continue on your own self-guided tour of Portland.
I know you’ve had this experience, because I have too. I fancy myself a cat in the know about Maine’s brewing scene. Recently, however, I boarded the big green Maine Brew Bus (his name is Lennie, by the way) and realized that though I’ve spent the past year writing about and drinking my fair share of Maine beer, I didn’t know the beer scene as intimately as I thought.
The first tour I took is called The Casco Fiasco Tour. I spotted the impossible-to-miss green school bus parked outside In’Finiti on Commercial St. and was promptly greeted by Adam and Bob, our, respectively, tall and mustachioed tour guide and bus driver. As soon as Lennie’s doors swung closed and Bob and his mustache pulled out of the parking lot, it was clear that we were in the hands of knowledgeable beer aficionados.
The Maine Brew Bus is an educational tour. (Don’t worry, there are a healthy number of samples to imbibe.) Adam gave the thirteen passengers on the bus a concise history of Maine’s brewing scene on our drive to Allagash Brewing Co., our first destination. The local beer scene was framed for us, now we were ready to drink knowledgeably.
The tour visited Allagash’s stunning facility, the art-infused, hip-hop driven Bissell Brother (Mmm…The Substance), enjoyed lunch at Sebago, and finished up at the forward-thinking Rising Tide Brewery.
When I sadly stepped off Lennie the Magical Beer Bus back at In’Finiti, my head was crammed with a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the Maine beer scene, and my belly was crammed with delicious Maine beer.
As fate would have it, I found myself back on Lennie two weeks later for The Local Pour Tour to visit Maine Mead Works, Urban Farm Fermentory, Maine Craft Distilling, and Bunker Brewing Company. I’m a beer guy, so I was a little hesitant about a tour that was only featuring one brewery. Mead? Kombucha? Cider? A carrot spirit? Not my wheelhouse, but the first ride on Lennie had been bliss-filled, plus, it’s good to get out your bibulous comfort zone from time to time.
After a beer and sausage tasting at the Thirsty Pig featuring Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA, Rising Tide Daymark, and Sebago Simmer Down (Yes!) I was feeling loose and up for trying some new libations.
Our tour guide this time was Don. How do I describe Don? He’s a mix between a high-octane game show host and an undergraduate professor schooling you on Maine history and beer. This man is a born tour guide.
What I got out of the Local Pour Tour, besides a new appreciation for Mead, is that Portland is a city brimming with entrepreneurs and artisans who are passionate about food, drink, and living creative lives. If for nothing else, take the Local Pour tour to get an inside look at the brilliant endeavors going down in Portland’s thriving East Bayside neighborhood.
Whether you’re visiting Maine for the weekend or you’re a seasoned local, hop on Lennie (or his new sister Mabel) and let The Maine Brew Bus drive you to Maine beer bliss.